I thought I’d talk about a controversial topic today, controversial because of one particular pattern that’s gained a lot of momentum lately: the fish-lips kiss heel. Now first I’d like to say that I like this pattern, that I like that it’s helping out its creator so very much, that I like the story behind it and the amount of effort put into it. It’s a good pattern, but I find it impossible to use in my own designs because of its paid for status.
Let me back up just a little. There are a lot of knitting designs in the world, as anyone who’s on Ravelry already knows. A lot of these knitting patterns also have unique stitch patterns, motifs, and constructions that other people would love to use. I always think of Barbara Walker’s books when I think about this topic as she has the most gorgeous stitch patterns I’ve ever seen, but there are also patterns like Tania Richter’s double-knit Kimono Sweaters which have a unique shoulder construction that allows for continuous color work.
If I wanted to use one of these techniques or stitch patterns in my own design I actually could. Thanks to copyright laws (in the U.S. at least), techniques can’t be copyrighted (though they might be patentable, but that’s almost impossible from my understanding – disclaimer, I’m no lawyer so you can’t take what I say as law). That means I could take that sweater technique or that cable pattern and use it in my own design, so long as I didn’t plagiarize the words exactly how they appear. Being a decent person, I would also credit the technique or stitch pattern to the person who wrote it, assuming I could figure out who that person was. Some patterns are so old that we’re not really sure who wrote them.
In my opinion, one should be able to use new techniques like this. One shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll be sued over it or have to pay for it or that people will get offended. We’re a community of knitters who want to spread our love and knowledge of knitting after all, aren’t we? Mind you, as a designer I don’t want people giving away my designs for free or outright stealing my designs and saying they’re their own, but all the techniques used in my designs – keyhole cables, Z-cables, point of view cables, brioche and welts, double-knit cables (wow, I do a lot of cables)? Those in my opinion are all fair game for people to use in their own projects. I’d like credit, but I don’t care if people use them or not, nor should I. I want my designs to be loved for their art and beauty, not solely their techniques.
Believe it or not, some designers don’t want their techniques being used by other designers. I can think of a couple in particular who get really upset and demand credit when this happens. This upsets me a great deal because I feel as though it serves the opposite of the values and friendliness of the knitting community.
Then there’s the fish-lips kiss heel, which is completely outside the realm in both respects. It’s brought the community together, touched people, made people happy, and people love it. It’s extremely well written and affordable, and designers use it all the time – they just don’t explain how to do it, instead telling the knitter to read through the original pattern. Again, I love the pattern and what it’s done for the community, but I don’t like how designers have ultimately treated it. I understand it – it helps a very lovely person who’s going through a very rough time, but it also makes it feel as though I can’t use the technique in my own patterns. I’m not going to tell people to buy a separate pattern to knit my pattern, I’m sorry I’m just not. That doesn’t feel right to me. I’m also not going to rely on others to explain a technique that isn’t taught in classes or otherwise has extensive resources devoted to it.
I’d like to use the fish-lips kiss heel, I really would, and legally I could do so if I wanted. I just know, however, that if I did so I’d offend so many people that I might effectively be excommunicated from the knitting community, which would make me really sad because I love the knitting community. I’m certain that just writing this blog post has the potential to offend many people, but I did say it was both a knitting opinion and a controversial topic (and that I love the pattern and the designer behind it). So, yeah, love the heel, I just don’t feel like I can use it in my own patterns, and that feels very strange to me.
What are your thoughts? Should techniques like this be free to use by all designers or should their be some proprietaries to stitch patterns and techniques? Let me know in the comments below, and as usual, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.